Think critically; clean critically. To grow your manufacturing business, you must make well-informed, cost-effective decisions about critical product cleaning. Consider the source. Advertising influences our critical cleaning decisions – it’s unavoidable. In our March 2016 issue of Clean Source, we described the pervasive influence of native advertising. We showed you how to spot the commercialism in product literature, advertorials, trade magazines, as well as in many webinars and seminars.

What you may not realize is that similar attempts to influence your business decisions, can also be found in

Outreach by government agencies
Non-profit and trade organizations
Peer-reviewed papers

Here are ways to avoid making the wrong decisions about cleaning and surface preparation by spotting the agendas and guidelines about who you can trust.

Governmental Regulatory Agendas
In my humble opinion, government agencies engage in the equivalent of native advertising. This is probably not because someone pays them to foster a given product. Instead, agencies have policies and opinions that are the equivalent of corporate culture. We continuously observe that agencies subtly foster a given technology or set of technologies. This is because they want you to adopt a subset of technologies that is currently under environmental favor. Other cleaning agents or cleaning techniques may not actually be “banned” by regulation; there may be safe, desirable, responsible ways to use the technologies. However, regulatory agencies may view certain cleaning agents in a way that is analogous to how cleaning agent vendors view the competition.

Anecdote – Indigestion
Governmental outreach programs may have a viewpoint or agenda; and that agenda may not totally mesh with your overall best interests. Let me summarize an anecdote that sensitized me to what is effectively native advertising in government outreach programs. Years ago, I was paid by a government agency to put together a regional trade show and seminar. I was the primary speaker. I explained to agency personnel that I would provide the pros and cons of various cleaning technologies in as unbiased a manner as possible. Gradually, it became clear that some technologies (aqueous) were considered by the sponsor to be far more equal than others (solvent). Shortly before the conference, my presentation was effectively rewritten by the agency in such a manner that each and every time I mentioned an organic solvent, I was ordered to reiterate the evil consequences of using that solvent. Every time I discussed aqueous technologies, my friendly governmental sponsors removed comments about environmental concerns and worker safety aspects (eg. they removed advice to “wear gloves” and “don’t stick your hands in the hot cleaning solution”). I was verbally informed that they did this because they didn’t want to discourage manufacturers from adopting the cleaning agents and cleaning equipment that were favored.

Boy, did I ever develop a case of indigestion! This was way, way too much angst for my delicate digestive system. I didn’t want to see anyone develop chemical burns from hot cleaning solutions. I found out that my choices were to walk away from the conference (and the fee and any influence I might have over the program content) or to accept the changes. In this instance, I elected to do several things. First, I accepted the changes. Next, I took the BFK Solutions logo off the slides and added a proviso that my talk reflected the comments and viewpoint of the government agency. Then, because I determined that I was allowed to answer questions from the audience, I contacted manufacturers of aqueous and of solvent cleaning agents/equipment who I knew would be attending the program, explained the situation, and encouraged them to ask me really intelligent, incisive questions. It worked. The audience “got it.”

The experience sensitized me to thinking very critically about government-sponsored programs. They are not selling product; but the equivalent of their “business assignment” might be to discourage the use of one chemical (or group of chemicals) and to paint a glowing portrait of the potential for alternative chemicals.

Non-profits, trade organizations
Again, think critically and read critically. The mere fact that an organization is not-for-profit does not automatically preclude the presence of an agenda. I’ll use a 501(c)(3) to denote a non-profit that’s more like a charity and a 501(c)(6) as more of a trade organization, but the terms get into legalities that are beyond my pay grade.

In any event, in evaluating information from a trade organization or a non-profit, it’s a good idea to understand the scope, mission, or charter of the group. Is advocacy or lobbying involved? Is the group chartered to provide education about a subset of cleaning techniques? Is the group funded by a governmental regulatory agency? Is it funded by industry? While we are not necessarily saying that such groups are engaged in “native advertising,” there is likely to be the equivalent of a corporate culture or an organization-wide viewpoint.

Scholarly Publications
Should you accept the findings in a peer-reviewed paper? Not necessarily. “The Journal of Irreproducible Results” is great satire; and it is effective because there is an element of truth. In too many instances, results published in prestigious journals cannot be replicated. We discussed some of these issues in “Success to Failure” (2).

The scope of the project on which the paper is based may reflect parameters set by the funding agency. For example, if researchers are funded to explore the performance of organic chemicals, aqueous materials might de facto be excluded from the experimental study. It does not mean that aqueous products are not desirable. In fact, we recently participated in such a study. In addition, many studies describe experiments performed under set, well-defined conditions, so results may not adequately reflect real-world manufacturing. Even case studies, which can be very useful, have to be taken with a grain of salt – each and every application is a bit different.

Who can you trust?
YOU! To clean critically, you have to think critically. When we do presentations, we suggest questioning authority – that means questioning everything, including what we tell you. We suggest looking at many sources of information about cleaning agents and cleaning equipment. However, consider the source, consider the motivations. Just as lines blur between ads and news, lines also blur between ads and technology, between safety/environmental policy and reality.

Reference.
1. Barbara Kanegsberg, “Think Critically, Clean Critically – “Native Advertising” Part 1,” Clean Source newsletter, March 2016; http://bfksolutions.com/think-critically-clean-critically-native-advertising-part-1/.

2. B. Kanegsberg and E. Kanegsberg, “Success to Failure,” Controlled Environments Magazine, March, 2015; http://www.cemag.us/article/2015/03/success-failure

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